A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.


John Rowe

16 November 1715 - 21 February 1787

John Rowe was born on 16 November 1715 in Exeter, England but lived most of his life in Boston, the city he immigrated to in his youth. Perhaps because of his upbringing in this bustling seaport, Rowe chose to enter the shipping trade. He met tremendous success as a merchant, importing and exporting foreign goods on privately-owned ships. Rowe involuntarily entered the Revolutionary struggle in 1773 when his cargo was tossed overboard during the Boston Tea Party. While he supported the patriot cause, Rowe expressed ambivalence about complete independence which may be attributed to his fear that his business relationship with the Crown could have been damaged had he spoken out. The most enduring aspect of Rowe's life is the detailed diary he kept between the years 1764 to 1779. He recounted not only his daily life, but insightful accounts of the Revolutionary events he witnessed. Rowe died on 21 February 1787.